Our current economic woes might be better called a “restresstion” than a recession. Going on for so long, it certainly has caused many people a lot of stress: financially, emotionally, and mentally, which can all take a toll physically. While certainly not the complete solution to managing stress, trying to maintain balance in your life can help stave off problems in the first place. A certain amount of stress is actually healthy (called eustress); distress on the other hand, is most certainly unhealthy. So, let’s take a positive approach and “put it up to eleven”: I’m going to try and find ways to help you (or at least me) deal with stress. (Note: I’m providing you with the Reader’s Digest version of my list; should you want to read my complete ramblings, just scroll on down to the bottom and click over to “The Balanced Guy” blog.)
Healthy Competition: I’ve seen guys get way too worked up watching their favorite football/ basketball/baseball/Calvin Ball/disco ball team lose. I mean seriously stressed out about it and way beyond healthy fun. So, what’s a guy who loves, loves, loves watching sports to do? How about this: Attend a local minor league or college game that really isn’t all that important to you. For one thing, ticket and concession prices are much cheaper compared to major league tickets (translation: less financial stress). And, it’s less crowded (little-to-no “people pushing and shoving” stress). To top it off, you usually can park close enough that you don’t need to buy a plane ticket to get from your car to the field.
Physical Fitness: It goes without saying that exercise helps reduce stress, although the Mayo Clinic says it anyway. The exercise-induced release of endorphins provides you with a major natural high, boosting your mood and fighting off mild symptoms of depression. So, if you’ve not exercised since that office picnic softball game back in ‘06, it’s time to get back in the swing of things. Take it easy at first, of course: Consult your doctor before beginning any physical fitness program (basically, you need to make sure you’re fit enough to get fit). Then the next step, of course, the sensible “Start slowly.” Nothing like that “weekend warrior” attitude to end up hurt and so sore that you quit three days into exercising because you can’t move. Pick something you enjoy doing (duh), and give it a regular slot in your schedule.
Your Ride: Car problems? Fix it yourself and experience some “eustress” through the satisfaction of successful problem solving. I picked up a used copy of Saturday Mechanic by Popular Mechanics for $1 at our local library book sale, and already have a copy of the Chilton’s Manual for our minivan (the Chilton’s Manual for your particular car is a critical part of your tool set). While I’m pretty handy with respect to home repair, my auto-mechanic skills are limited to tune-ups, oil changes, brake jobs, and the like. However, I’m always willing to learn. Nothing like solving a problem by doing it yourself and saving money in the process.
Greenbacks: This is one of the areas where the “restresstion” has hit almost everyone the hardest. Scores of books have been written on this topic in the last few years alone, so I’m not able to provide profound financial and/or career insight and wisdom in a single paragraph. But as a way to provide some stress relief, think of three things you’re thankful you are not. Such as “I’m thankful I’m not homeless.” Or, “I’m thankful I’m not living under a repressive regime in a third-world country.” “I’m thankful I wasn’t living in Haiti when the earthquake hit.” It may seem hokey, but counting your blessings for the things you’re not is an amazing way to be thankful for the things you do have.
Play Time: Want to have a crunchy-granola, New Age–experience that is relaxing yet high-tech at the same time? Check out The Journey to the Wild Divine: The Passage. I received this as a Christmas present several years ago and have come back to it time and again as a way to relax. In short, it’s a computer game you play using biofeedback: Wearing sensors on your fingers, you meditate to control your breathing and heartbeat causing your energy level to rise or fall as required to move on to the next stage. No matter how my day went, I always end each session feeling centered and relaxed.
Tasty Licks: No doubt you know by now (and if you don’t, what the heck is wrong with you?) that one of the best ways to create a relaxing environment is music. Assuming you have an iPod or some other kind of MP3 player, put together a “relax” playlist, then turn off the TV, send the kids out to play, and forget about the world for a while. Some of my favorite music for relaxing is baroque (Vivaldi, Mozart, Chopin, etc.); some New Age Celtic stuff (John Doan and John Boswell); Sade and Enigma; classic blues and jazz like Ted Hawkins, Miles Davis, and John Coltrane; and on and on … (Note: No Kenny G … I had a bad experience with him once while having an MRI, although I’m fairly sure I could never have a good experience with Kenny G.) Chill out and stay cool, daddy-o.
Stand Up: No doubt at some point you’ve been frustrated by something going on locally, or at the state or national level. You moan and groan about it saying, “Someone should do something about it!” Well, now’s your chance: Send a letter to your elected leaders and get whatever it is off your mind. Even if nothing happens as a result of your actions, simply knowing you took action and spoke your mind is a great way to feel better about it. Here are a few suggestions to get you started: The White House, The House of Representatives, The Senate, and this site featuring links for the main Web site for each of the 50 states, DC, and US territories. And last but not least: a Web site to find and contact your mayor for many cities in the U.S.A. Do your part as a citizen, speak your mind, and remember to always exercise your right—and duty—to vote!
The Great Outdoors: Few things relieve stress like being in nature. At the end of a hard day or if you find yourself feeling overwhelmed, put everything aside, take a deep breath, and take a walk. If it’s raining, take an umbrella. If it’s nighttime, look up at the stars and moon. Just get outside.
Nice is as Nice Does: Go out of your way to be nice. It’ll make you feel good. Helping others is a great way to feel good and reduce stress, especially when they haven’t asked for it. You’ve probably seen the bumper sticker “Commit Random Acts of Kindness.” What you might not know is there is a foundation behind it that is “committed to spreading kindness.”
Black Socks and Flip-Flops: This one is easy: Embarrass your kids. My kids have gotten used to seeing me wear black socks and flip-flops—literally. Not that I’m normally some kind of fashionista, but I do like to look professional and pulled together for work, which can be stressful on a daily basis. Thus, when I get home, I really don’t care to take off my dress socks simply to put on another pair so that I “match.” I’m not going anywhere, it’s my house, and I’m the king.
“Honey Do”: End the personal shame and stress you feel each time you pull into your driveway. Make the commitment to get out this weekend and finally take down those outdoor Christmas lights. We’re little more than a week away from the official start of spring, for crying out loud, so it’s time.
The writer of The Balanced Guy, Roman Horoszewski, is not particularly balanced but he’s trying to be. He makes an effort by not only doing “guy stuff,” but also by spending time with his three sons and wife while attempting to remain informed about the world around him. He and his family live in the Princeton, N.J. area. His blog is @ http://thebalancedguy.blogspot.com/.